Lijia Xu was born in Shanghai in 1987. Her sports career started at the age of 5 when she was accepted by the Changning District Swimming Team. Lijia’s interest in sailing began in 1997 after being approached by the Shanghai Optimist Sailing Coach. From the age of 10 Lijia travelled all year round to sail and train; becoming a full-time sailor shortly after her 10th birthday.
Her first National Championship was in the Optimist class, held in Hong Kong in 1998, which she won. In her final two years in this class Lijia won the National, Asia and World Championships, along with the National and Asian Games.
On graduating from the Optimist class Lijia spent two years sailing the Europe class before moving on to the Laser Radial, which has been the Olympic single-handed dinghy for women since 2008.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Lijia was awarded the bronze medal. Despite a number of setbacks, including serious injuries, Lijia went on to achieve the Olympic gold medal in single-handed dinghy sailing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Not only a huge personal achievement, this also catapulted Lijia to become Asia’s first ever dinghy sailing gold medallist.
Through much of her time racing a Laser Radial Lijia has been coach by Jon Emmett, a well-respected coach and successful sailor in his own right. Notable accolades have been awarded to Lijia including the 2012 Rolex World Sailor of the Year award, and becoming a Team SCA Ambassador of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. Lijia represented China at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is now studying journalism.